Plano scores primo pizza with Taverna Rossa

Plano's Taverna Rossa rules | TheDallasDiva.com

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of sampling some sweet pizza pie love at Plano’s newest pizza spot, Taverna Rossa. What a cute spot! The interior’s all rustic-feeling, with tons of wood furniture and accents, lovely strung-up lights and even antler adornments, all of which give the place a relaxed feel. Too, there’s a stage where Taverna Rossa hosts local music acts.

Taverna Rossa, Plano | TheDallasDiva.com

I moseyed up to the bar and sampled the Rossa Mule, their take on a Moscow Mule, except with fruit-infused bourbon instead of vodka. It was brilliant — quite spicy, thanks to the potent ginger beer. I’ll have another, bartender! And I did! My friend Dr. Lucy thoroughly enjoyed a Mule and later the Thyme’s Up, an herb-tinged cocktail brimming with tart grapefruit and berry flavors.

Taverna Rossa, Plano | TheDallasDiva.com

But it’s the pies you want to know about, right? Taverna Rossa keeps them thin-crust and crispy, with delightfully crusty edges. I sampled a number of exotic house varieties, including the Kona Fire Pie starring jalapenos, pineapple nuggets and cashews (!!!). Not quite my speed, but tasty, with some textural pizzazz from the nuts and heat from the peppers. Aloha! Really, my absolute favorite pie was the All-American, with pepperoni, Luscher’s sausage, turkey canadian bacon, bacon, fontina cheese and a house-blend mozzarella. Simple yet stupendous, it was a saucy, juicy, cheesy pie — everything I love in a pizza. Between the welcoming vibe and decor, the tasty cocktails and the hearty pizza, Taverna Rossa brings a cool new Italian-flavored hub to the northern ‘burbs.

Chefs for Farmers cocktail king crowned

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This past Sunday, the annual farm-to-fork foodie extravaganza Chefs for Farmers christened the crafter of what will be this year’s event’s signature cocktail.

At the Cocktail Mix-Off at Uptown watering hole The Standard Pour, seven of the city’s finest drinks slingers were invited to concoct an amazing drink using Maker’s Mark bourbon. Among the restos represented were FT33, Boulevardier and The Standard Pour itself. I sipped all kinds of heady, fresh, very inventive beverages ranging from tart and summery to spicy and seasonal.

The mixologists raise a glass ...

The mixologists raise a glass …

Coming out ahead of the pack, however, was the very seasonal apple-heavy Steep Buzz by Boulevardier’s Eddie Eakin, also containing Earl Grey tea-infused honey syrup, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, apple bitters and lemon juice — complex, delish, and very comforting, thanks to the apple. And the bourbon, I won’t lie. Wink!

Eddie cheers his triumph.

Eddie cheers his triumph.

The win means Eddie’s drink will be the featured bev at Chefs for Farmers: Down & Dirty on the Boulevard, taking place Nov. 3 in Lee Park. As always, it will be a union of purveyors, ranchers and growers and the 40+ chefs who love and will cook up their products for foodie guests. Get your ticket here, and quickly — this event, in its fourth year, has a pesky tendency to sell out. It’s not to be missed if you love great, fresh food.

Spike your week with crafts and whisky

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Starting tomorrow, The Balvenie whisky label is offering you, Dallas, a chance to immerse yourself in a world of artisan crafts and fine spirit at The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection, a special exhibition.

The Hickory Street Annex will be home for the next two days to the best that the country’s most creative craftspeople have to offer. We’re talking furniture (such as the gorgeous chair above, by Danny Kamerath), instruments, even bikes and Ping-Pong tables, all curated for the collection by noted fashion designer Todd Snyder. While you’re taking in the splendid array of handcrafted creations in the gallery-like presentation, you can sip outstanding whisky and nibble on hors d’oeuvres — fabulous! Meantime, a lucky few registrants can get schooled on spirits in Scotch Whisky Master Classes taking place both nights of the exhibition.

The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection and the Master Classes are this Tuesday and Wednesday (the 10th and 11th) between 6 to 10 p.m., and while it’s open to the public, you have to RSVP to attend them, and the Classes have limited seating! Click here to learn more and RSVP. The collection and the fete altogether sound like an abundantly creative and illuminating experience — hope to see you there!

NOLA: Cafe Adelaide and farewell …

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Within mere minutes of the above scenario going down (ahhhh!), my cohorts and I were sauntering through the French Quarter on our way to the lavish Loews New Orleans. You’ll recall it was the sizzling-hot hotel I stayed at on my last NOLA visit, in March. I also was treated then to a spectacular lunch at the hotel’s Cafe Adelaide, which is where us three were headed for Saturday brunch this fine day.

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Toasting Ruth’s Chris roots

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Greetings, chickadees! Just wanted to share the luscious food porn I collected at last week’s quite excellent Hand-crafted Cocktail Dinner celebrating Ruth Chris Steak House‘s New Orleans roots.

Overall, the food was even more glorious than my mouth expected, and that’s saying a lot, because knowing Ruth’s Chris, I set my bar pretty high. The incredible, French Quarter-inspired cocktails were paired so thoughtfully and featured spirits ranging from Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey out of upstate New York to Reyka Vodka from Iceland. Guests were greeted in a private dining space by Ruth’s Chris’ Fort Worth bar manager Brian Garrett and by William Grant and Sons National Brand Ambassador Charlotte Voisey, who spoke about each food and bev pairing via video. Soon the meal and the heady pleasures began!

Here, take a look at what we feasted on and let your envy taste buds take you over …

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Watching Charlotte Voisey discuss the pairings. My mouth was watering at the delicious prospects ahead!

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The ahi tuna stack opener had a nice kick from wasabi creme fraiche, and went beautifully with the refreshing French Quarter 75 with Hendrick’s Gin.

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A summer melon salad brimming with crispy prosciutto bits was paired with a grapefruit and basil martini starring Reyka Vodka.

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Now it’s on to the meat! Seared scallops Rockefeller was *such* the NOLA reminder for me, and fabulous with its blackberry sidecar featuring Remy Martin VSOP.

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A hearty filet and pepper-flecked crab cake arrive on a sizzling platter and came with an apricot sour — classic stuff, courtesy of Hudson Baby Bourbon.

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I didn’t think I’d have room for this decadent pina colada bread pudding sitting in a raspberry creme anglaise, but I ate most of it! The accompanying rum iced coffee was my least fave, however, but that’s mostly because I’m not a java fan!

Watching Charlotte Voisey discuss the pairings. My mouth was watering at the delicious prospects ahead!The ahi tuna stack opener had a nice kick from wasabi creme fraiche, and went beautifully with the refreshing French Quarter 75 with Hendrick's Gin.A summer melon salad brimming with crispy prosciutto bits was paired with a grapefruit and basil martini starring Reyka Vodka.Now it's on to the meat! Seared scallops Rockefeller was *such* the NOLA reminder for me, and fabulous with its blackberry sidecar featuring Remy Martin VSOP.A hearty filet and pepper-flecked crab cake arrive on a sizzling platter and came with an apricot sour -- classic stuff, courtesy of Hudson Baby Bourbon.I didn't think I'd have room for this decadent pina colada bread pudding sitting in a raspberry creme anglaise, but I ate most of it! The accompanying rum iced coffee was my least fave, however, but that's mostly because I'm not a java fan!P1030880

Hope your eyes loved it as much as my mouth did! Kudos to Ruth’s Chris Fort Worth!

Studio Movie Grill ups its menu game

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In the last month, local eat-while-you-watch theater chain Studio Movie Grill has updated its menu with items and specials that aim to appease tummies. I was asked to pop in to check them out recently. My movie selection, by the by, was R-rated comedy We’re The Millers, which I super-highly recommend … laughs for days, and such a fun little trifle. But on to the food!

Thanks to the rugrats next to me and my guest (YES, there were kiddos at this strong R-rated show) ordering them and killing us with the aroma, we started with the classic buffalo wings. Mmmmm times 2! Satisfied that jones and got me my fix of SMG’s strangely addictive ranch dressing. What is IN that stuff??

Along with our wings, we requested a couple of the new adult shakes — I went for the Kahlua Mudslide, with Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Absolut Vodka and vanilla ice cream, while my friend “Dr. Lucy” went with the vodka and orange liqueur-starring Orange Dreamsicle. I took a sip of mine and freakin’ loved it, then I took a sip of hers and didn’t want to give it back — that Dreamsicle was like my fondest childhood memory of the ice cream truck, with a hit of vodka. Love! Dr. Lucy reports, “OMG, the Orange Dreamsicle was ridiculously good!! I would have had another if I wasn’t driving.” Way to stay safe, doc! :)

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I was strongly recommended to sample the Steak & Gravy sandwich (above), and as a Texan, I think this dish needs a new name — I envisioned a chicken-fried steak on a roll with cream gravy! This was more like a French dip situation, with slices of tenderloin steak, Swiss cheese all good and melty and caramelized onions on a sub roll and a Cabernet dipping sauce on the side. Talk about hearty! The roll itself was super-delicious and had just enough give to not overwhelm the steak-y star of the show. The steak was tender and nicely seasoned, and the dipping sauce a savory sensation. I actually craved a glass of wine with this …

Another new dish we sampled was the tenderloin tips and mushroom pasta. Talk about hearty, part 2! It’s a dish I imagine would warm my insides come late fall/winter. Flavorwise, it was pretty darn good — rigatoni, hefty portobellos, steak chunks tossed in a creamy garlic-Cabernet sauce and served up with buttered and griddled bread. Quite tasty, and a dish I’d share with a movie mate! Dr. Lucy said, “the beef tips were actually very tender and well seasoned with the mushrooms but not overly so.”

A featured chicken parmesan sandwich was part of SMG’s new Chefs for Children program, where 5% of proceeds from featured menu items go toward Children’s Medical Center Variety The Children’s Charity. We didn’t order it during the film due to a miscommunication, but general manager Matt sent us with a serving to go. What little I tasted of it (I was stuffed to bursting at this point!) was delish, and Dr. Lucy said she loved it.

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Among other menu additions at SMG are ceviche wraps and a yummy-sounding blackened chicken salad (above) that I may have to make mine next visit, slathered in the aforementioned addictive ranch dressing. Glad to have some new options besides my standby (and original and forever love!!), SMG’s chicken tenders. Also new is a 2-for-$25 meal special that’s perfect for duos or dates. Keep up the tastiness!

NOLA Day 3: Biking with booze

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Friday in New Orleans started out bright and beautifully, just beckoning us outside. Good thing we’d be spending a good chunk of time outdoors with a much-looked-forward-to excursion that spoke to our inner lushes: Confederacy of Cruisers’ cocktail history bike tour of the French Quarter! It’s like we were made for each other! But first we had to breakfast!

A spot I’ve come to loooove visiting on my trips to New Orleans is Le Croissant d’Or, on a quiet stretch of the FQ.

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Fort Worth + NOLA = fabulousness!

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You know I loves me some New Orleans. And you also know I looooves me some food. So imagine my intense delight in learning the two will be toasted during Ruth’s Chris Steak House‘s national celebration of its NOLA roots, christened the Hand-Crafted Cocktail Dinner. How do you say YEEHAW in Louisianan?

This Diva was invited to partake in the multi-course dinner in Fort Worth, featuring cocktail pairings and led by William Grant & Sons Brand Ambassador JP De Loera. Drool over this menu … just don’t get any on your keyboard:

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Cocktails and art mingle at The Modern

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This Thursday, an artful event beckons one and all to Fort Worth — and that’s huge, considering this Diva generally doesn’t venture often past West Dallas for kicks. Leave it to a cocktail-fueled party to tempt me!

The sleek Cafe Modern inside The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is hosting a lovely fete full of bevs and bites as well as live music at a little event they’re calling Cocktail Evening. Sip on concoctions featuring Milagro Tequila, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Hendrick’s Gin and Reyka Vodka. Feast on small plates and nibbles from Cafe Modern chef Dena Peterson while taking in the sounds of smooth jazz saxophonist Vandell Andrew. Sounds like a sexy night that’d make for a terrific date — eats and drinks amid the bold architecture and forward-looking art of The Modern. Who’s in?

Cocktail Evening runs Thursday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., and reservations cost $60, not including tax and gratuity. Snag a spot by calling the cafe at 817-840-2157.

NOLA, Day 1: Have I got Tales for you!

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So I landed in New Orleans this go-round right as the huuuuge spirits-education fest Tales of the Cocktail kicked off — sooooweet! With Detroit Diva covering it officially, our group got some inside scoopage on parties and special events happening alongside the event.

But one of our first endeavors upon arriving to town was dinner at Dominique’s, a farm-to-table-centric resto along the offbeat, funky Magazine Street neighborhood.

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I loved the classy-cool, easy elegance of the eatery, with its clean decor and open layout. Beyond the main dining room was an intimate patio area adorned with candles. We sat indoors and soaked up the sweet ambience. We opted for a mix of starters, including a duck leg confit, a crab and celery root salad and this tasty pork belly and watermelon skewer …

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I feasted on a Morgan Ranch Wagyu beef coulette — a cut between the sirloin and filet — filled with a Creole cream cheese and sided with a potato galette and fresh carrot flan (below). Simply fantastic — I requested a medium-plus preparation, and it arrived cooked to light-red perfection. Home run!

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Detroit Diva dived into a pan-seared flounder with pappardelle pasta and greens (below) — a just-caught, flaky delight.

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Dimples enjoyed a pan-sauteed soft-shell crab (below), which I did not try because of my fear that soft-shell crab bodies will sprout to life and attack my face … but here’s a pic!

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After our supremely yummy stop at Dominique’s, it was time to get to partying — we were on the list for the Absolut Welcome Party for Tales, so it was off to Arnaud’s in the French Quarter …

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… which is where this happened. Arnaud’s was transformed from genteel Southern dining haven into room after room of carnival-themed merriment and wonder. Epic!!

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In the main dining room, mini-boats had been filled with boiled shrimp, and dishes of bananas Foster awaited sweet-toothy guests. Meantime, cocktails poured forth from old-fashioned fountains — I opted for a classic Corpse Reviver as Detroit Diva and I moved on. Upstairs, one room featured a popcorn dispenser and carnival performers, while around the bend, another chamber was bedecked in birthday finery to celebrate the anniversary of the Cosmopolitan (above). Best. Bday. Evah. We filled our to-go cups with Cosmo and headed back downstairs as the party wound down.

(Thanks heavens for to-go cups in NOLA – no need to guzzle your drank, just bring it with you on the street!)

We met up with Dimples and ditched our cups to hit up the Erin Rose, one of those fantastic locals bars scattered throughout the Quarter if you look hard enough. You’ll remember my visit here in March; I hearted its spirited, no-frills vibe from the get-go.

Unlike my last visit, though, the Killer Po-Boys window in back was open! Even though we were still stuffed from dinner, Detroit spotted a pork belly po-boy on the menu and decided it had to be hers (the girl has a pork belly addiction like I’ve never seen. Send prayers and pork belly in her direction.).

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Having lost Dimples for the evening (let’s just say our group has a vicious habit of losing cellphones in NOLA), Detroit and I weren’t ready to tuck the night away, so we walked to a bar I’d been dying to check out — mixology haven Bar Tonique.

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Located on Rampart Street, which divides the Quarter from the Treme neighborhood, it exudes underground neighborhood openness and cool. LOVED it. Though it had the look of a dive, it’s earned a rep as one of the best mixology spots in town. Yay for my taste buds! A must-visit for you!

Suffice it to say that at this point, your Diva couldn’t recall what was ordered, though I will always remember really falling hard for the carefree vibe at Bar Tonique. Detroit and I stumbled home to our hotel.

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